MANILA, Philippines — University of Santo Tomas took a huge step closer in reaping a seventh title after downing defending champion Ateneo de Manila University in four sets in Game 1 of the 9th Shakey’s V-League first conference finals Sunday, June 3 at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Four locals finished in double figures for the Tigresses, who exacted revenge on their quarterfinals tormentor in the 16-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-23 that snapped the Lady Eagles’ season-long 10-game winning streak.
UAAP veterans Judy Caballejo, Maru Banaticla, Maika Ortiz and Mary Jean Balse combined for 53 points even as Thai import Nen Utaiwan chipped in with nine markers to help the España-based squad the chance to seal the deal and finish Ateneo off in Game 2 on Tuesday, 4pm.
UST started slow, losing the first set to the Lady Eagles, before gaining steam in the last three frames in the game that saw the Tigresses rise to the occasion and the Katipunan-based crew stumble in disarray.
“Medyo tight sila nung first set (They were a but tight during the first set),” UST coach Odjie Mamon told reporters after the game. “Pero nung second to fourth, laban na talaga (But in the second to the fourth, they fought hard).”
Due to its lackluster start, the Tigresses lost in almost all statistical categories but came through when it mattered most, including in the fourth set, when Ateneo threatened to force a decider.
The Lady Eagles had a couple more attacks (55-53), four more killed blocks (11-7), six more digs (47-41) and eight more excellent sets (45-37).
However, all these advantages were negated by 24 unforced errors. UST had 21.
Mamon, nevertheless, still feels that there are areas to be improved on as they go for the jugular on Tuesday.
“Yung blocking yung one area na kelangan pag-usapan namin (Blocking is the one area we still need to work on),” he added.”Kahit hindi yung nakaka-score na block, basta napipigilan din yung mga tira nila (Even if the blocks don’t score a point, as long as they can prevent their shots).”
For Ateneo, the defeat left them with a lot of questions as they lost their spunk after a solid opening set, when Thai reinforcement Kesinee Lithawat lorded it over at the net.
Kesinee, awarded Best Blocker prior to the match, finished with 16 points spiked by seven blocks while Alyssa Valdez bucked an injured shoulder to score a game-high 20 points off 18 hits.
On the other hand, V-League Best Server Caballejo topped the Tigresses with 15 markers. – Rappler.com